we follow one couple's make or break journey to save their relationship with the help of these unlikely therapists. and stop and go. from rudolph's holiday classic to the an tucks of sponge bob scare pa square pants, inside the stop motion studios where these beloved characters are making christmas magic. >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry more yamoran, cynthia mcf and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," december 7th, 2012. >> good evening, i'm terry moran. it started with two radio djs and a lighthearted prank call to the london hospital where the pregnant duchess kate was recovering from acute sickness. but today, that joke took an unexpected turn, when the nurse who picked up the call was found dead. abc's david wright brings us this look at the dark side of practical jokes.
>> hello, good morning. >> oh, hello there. could i please speak to kate, please, my granddaughter. >> oh, yes, just hold on. >> reporter: as this prank phone call by two australian djs went viral around the world. >> if this has worked, it's the easiest prank call we've ever made. >> reporter: one can only imagine that the nurse that put the call through must have been mortified. >> it is with deep sadness that i can confirm the tragic death of a member of our nursing staff, jacintha saldanha. everyone is shocked by the loss of a much-loved and valued colleague. >> reporter: today, the duke and duchess of cambridge echoed that sentiment. their royal highnesses were l k looked after so wonderfully well at all times. their thoughts and prayers are with jacintha saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time. >> hello, i'm just after my granddaughter kate. >> reporter: suddenly, that joke
at the expense of kate's care givers. >> when is a good time to come and visit her, because i'm the queen, i need a lift down there. >> reporter: doesn't seem all that funny anymore. >> clearly, the djs involved in it never could have anticipated this would happen. i don't think they even thought they would besuccessful. >> reporter: today, for the australian djed who made the call, major backlash. their station apologized wednesday, but today, the station's facebook page got bombarded with outraged messages. some saying they have blood on their hands. twitter and youtube have helped make this a golden age for practical jokes. amplifying humor to a world wide audience. one example, currently making the rounds is this brazilian tv footage. showing people trapped all alone in a broken elevator, only to find they've been joined by a spooky companion. >> part of what it makes it so
funny is it plays on human fear. >> what producers try to do is, they add a laugh track. so, the laugh track, the people laughing in the background sort of signal that this potentially bad situation, potentially mean thing, is actually okay and, hence, funny. that laugh track, it is hard to delight in the misery of others. >> reporter: less funny are jokes that target one individual in what could be construed as a mean spirits today, such a wayne, an american magician appearing on tv in the dominican republican. the host unexpectedly set his hair on fire. >> his face is burnt. >> reporter: the magician suffered serious burns. >> a practical joke is be a way to tease someone or bully them. >> reporter: sometimes a friendly joke can go too far. in 2004, many fans thought it
was funny when chris klein found his house under siege. a fake hollywood s.w.a.t. team in this case, under the direction of punked host ashton kutcher. >> i knew it! >> reporter: but earlier this year, someone pun,ed kutcher by sending a real s.w.a.t. team to his house. the prankster told police there was a home invasion in progress. some of kutcher's household staff were detained at gun point by real cops with real bullets. authorities call it s.w.a.t.ing, it's being something of a mini-fad. among the other high profile victims this year, miley sicyru and simon cowell. clearly, the australians never expected their prank to have deadly consequences. >> this nurse got caught in the crossfire. very clearly, it's the case that the royals were the target. >> reporter: mel got the radio show earlier this year, after gaining prominence as a fun-loving contestant on "the amazing race."
>> it still smells. >> reporter: now, she'll have to deal with the fallout from this. if you think about it, there's another obvious person bound to be hurt by this particular practical joke. the anxious royal father to be. his mother will never know his children because she was hounded by the press. now, more frivolous attention. >> i am the queen, bow for me. bow for me. >> reporter: and tragically, another life lost. i'm david wright for "nightline" in los angeles. >> a tough story. thanks to david for that. tonight, the chief executive of the australian radio station behind the royal hoax defended the prank, but announced the show will be taken off the air indefinitely. well, next up, we're going to turn to one couple's emotional journey to rescue their relationship, with the help of some very special horses. ♪
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new frontier for those looking to sort out the messy matters of the heart. juju chang brings us one couple's journey to get back in the saddle. >> justin, can you tell danny what you've been through? and notice his reaction as you're talking. >> tell danny? you serious? >> reporter: this man is trying to win back the love of his life, by talking to a horse. >> okay, danny. >> reporter: justin and lyz have been together for nine years. >> justin, look at lyz's reaction. >> but a week ago, they were barely talking to each other. >> justin will do everything except what i'm telling him i need because he doesn't think -- >> take a break, guys. >> thanks. >> [ bleep ]. >> reporter: this is couple's counseling at relationship ranch. >> so, he identified heavily with our horse. >> reporter: nancy and lottie are marriage therapists who are convinced these gentle animals
can help tame feuding couples by breaking down emotional defenses and helping heal past traumas. >> because horses are so sensitive, they can help us determine what a couple is actually really feeling. >> walk, walk. go! >> he's telling me that you don't really mean it. >> reporter: so, we came to colorado to follow this couple's last ditch effort to save a scrumabling relationship, using horse therapy. >> we have piled problem on top of problem on top of problem for years, who knows what's at the bottom of that. all by yourself. >> reporter: though never married, justin and lyz are raising two sons. lately, the bickering and fighting got so bad, he reluctantly moved out. but now, he'll try just about anything to make his family whole again. >> first thing we're going to do today is just actually go meet the herd. >> reporter: justin is drawn to the most aggressive horse on the ranch, danny, who came here
after surviving a grizzly bear attack. danny isn't fitting in, which hits home for justin, who feels exiled from his own herd. >> i think that lyz experiences justin as very controlling. but that has its root in his childhood. >> reporter: turns out, when justin was 9, his sister but brutally murdered by an ex-boyfriend. >> he chased her down and cut her throat. and we went back several days later and they didn't clean anything up. >> reporter: nancy believes that childhood trauma affects his adult relationship. >> trauma survivors are very concerned with being able to control their presence environment because they were not able to control their environment when they were traumatized. >> can you see? >> no, i'm blindfolded. >> reporter: this trust exercise forces justin to give up control to his partner. >> horse on your right. keep walking. you're fine. >> okay. >> reporter: the goal? to expose his old wounds. >> can he relate to you, do you
think? >> yeah. >> reporter: watch how danny sets the stage for a major breakthrough. >> i went through a very difficult time, as well. very traumatic situation. it seemed so stupid at first and then it was actually helpful. therapeutic. you're okay. you're going to do just fine. >> and it was a breakthrough. it would have been taken me a year if i was meeting with justin in my office. >> reporter: lyz said she had never seen justin so vulnerable. two weeks later, one final exercise. it's aimed with justin coping his past. >> you abandoned all of us. i had to be the man of the family. >> reporter: inside the pen, justin is 9 years old again. the age when his sister was murdered and his father split. lyz plays the role of his dad. >> i get more determined to never be as pathetic as you are. >> reporter: at this crucial moment, danny seems to sense that his new friend needs help. and in a rare sign of trust,
some of the horses lay down behind justin. >> i'm already better than you. >> reporter: others join him by his side. >> they're giving us messages. what is the 9-year-old justin think they're telling us? >> that they don't have to -- >> you don't have to what? >> keep fighting. you know, you don't have to be so worried and scared all the time. >> that was the big ah-ha moment for lyz. she said, justin, i realize that i am abandoning you over and over again, just like your dad did. >> reporter: at this point, nancy asks the couple to formally recommit to each other exclusively. >> and you might decide you can't. there was a huge eruption with the horses. they started kicking and running and we actually had to get up from where we were sitting. >> reporter: nancy believes the
horses were reacting to lyz's fear of commitment and justin's fear of abandonment. >> calm down. whoa, whoa. >> reporter: but she still presses the issue further. >> i'm wondering if you'll think about it. >> i'll do it. >> reporter: lyz needs more time to decide. here's a loaded question. do you still love each other? >> i love justin. >> i love lyz. >> reporter: is there a but coming? >> no, no. >> reporter: they haven't solved all their problems, but at least for now, they found some guidance for the long road ahead. >> if you truly want help, you're going to do whatever it takes to get that, even if it's talking to a horse. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm juju chang in colorado. >> horse therapy. thanks to juju for that. well, just ahead, step by step, frame by frame, you won't believe the incredible way these games are bringing spongebob's christmas to life. smoothes, lifts, defies?
in an age where computers can edit your home videos while doing your taxes and sending sushi delivery to your front door, it is surprising to find someone doing anything the time consuming low-tech way. especially when that something is creating a spongebob squarepants christmas special. so, here's abc's neal karlinsky. >> okay, rudolph! full power! >> reporter: if you ever watched that iconic '60s era "rue doll the rez nosed reindeer christmas special" aptd thought, i would do that --
>> you wouldn't mind my red nose? >> reporter: hold that thought. these are the grownups who turned a childhood obsession with stop motion films into a business. >> you're able to shoot maybe 1 a 0 frames in a day, 100 frames. and it's 24 frames for every second. so -- it's slow, but when you're animating, you are just kind of in the zone. it's this zen process. >> reporter: man, i hope so. this is tedious. this is like the definition of tedious. >> reporter: seamus, mark and chris are the founders of screen novelties, a company that specializes in stop motion animating. and which has been tapped to turn one of the most successful cartoons in history into a walking, jump iing, singing, puppet show for tv. >> stop motion's basically done the same today as it was 100 years ago for the most part. we do have computers now and digitalcameras, but the core
approach is the same for over a century. >> reporter: consider this fact. it takes them entire day to make just five seconds of moving video. characters are moved a hair at a time by hand, including facial expressions, then shot with a standard digital slr camera and then moved again. wires used to hold them in place are erased later by computer. these lightning bolts are cut out pieces of white paper. >> yeah, kind of animated on a multiplane system and then the glow that you see is just something that we can add here on the computer to give it more juice. >> reporter: the sets, the character, the clothing, all of it is made from scratch. >> each puppet had at least 50 parts, not counting mouths to put them together. he's very much a mr. potato head. >> reporter: sponge bob is no sponge. he's foam and has nearly 100 different mouths to trade out to make his exprex change.
patrick is made of wool and had tiny little scarfs knitted by hand. are you brushing her tooth? >> yeah, getting her ready for set. >> want to blow some bubbles? >> oh, okay. >> reporter: tom is the voice of sponge bob. >> there's something kind of dream like about this that i think, you know, much as i love 2d animation, when you put it in this, maybe because you're not used to seeing the characters like that. kind of a mind blower. >> reporter: the entire christmas special is based on a song kenny wrote. sort of his own sponge bob-esque take on the grinch ♪ the world does not resolve around you ♪ ♪ don't be a jerk ♪ it's christmas ♪ babies and animals ♪ old folks, too ♪ that's how you'd like them to treat you ♪
>> reporter: it's low-tech in a high-tech world. don't blink. someone might have spent a whole day on that. i'm neal karlinsky for "nightline" in los angeles. >> it's a sponge bob christmas will air tomorrow on nickelodeon. thanks to neal. thank you for watching abc news. which in for "good morning america." we're always online at abcnews.com. jimmy kimmel is next. have a safe weekend. up next on "jimmy kimmel live" -- reba mcentire. mike tyson. >> how you been doing? >> might be a little awkward because this is the first time that mike and reba have been in the same room together since they broke up. >> and the winner of "dancing with the stars," melissa rycroft. >> now that "dancing with the stars" is over, i don't know what to watch. when does football come back? it is back? oh, my. i think i might need a